ABU DHABI // Competitions across the country are helping to promote Emirati cuisine, as its popularity starts to grow in the local food market.
Twenty-two Emirati women from Abu Dhabi cooked traditional home-made dishes on Friday as part of the Dubai World Hospitality Championship 2013.
They were given the choice of cooking breakfast, lunch or dinner for a panel of seven judges in the capital.
“The objective is to keep our tradition alive because the new generation doesn’t really know much about it,” said Ahmed bin Hareb, the championship’s general manager.
“We encourage students and all women to take part, and we want to support them to make sure they keep cooking Emirati food because we want to put it on the market and in hotels.”
The competition is the first of several taking place in all seven emirates over the coming week.
The judges, who included food experts, professional chefs and members of the championship committee, tasted a wide range of typical Emirati dishes throughout the day.
“This rice dish has too many pine nuts and raisins, which doesn’t make it very traditional,” Mr bin Hareb said of one entry.
“This bread is too dry, so she won’t get full marks,” he said of another.
He was also critical of a dish with beans, which was too small a serving for the judges.
“In our culture and hospitality, we always look at presentation and quantity,” Mr bin Hareb said. “We judge on presentation, taste and the traditional look.”
Other dishes included a macaroni-style meal, and one made with a mix of flour and dates.
The judges had provided the women with cooking utensils and a set amount of money to buy ingredients for their meals.
“Ingredients differ by emirate,” said Mr bin Hareb, who has been working in the hospitality field for 17 years.
“Some women have date farms, others have dairy farms, so they might have fresher ingredients.”
Up to 10 winners will be chosen from each emirate. Prizes include gold and silver medals and cash.
The championship will take place in Dubai between November 16 and 18, where the winners will receive their prizes. Another 17 women aged between 15 and 25 from each emirate will compete in a cook-off for 25 judges.
“We’re trying to preserve the tradition of our grandmothers’ recipes and trying to make it available in houses and on the market,” said Ahmed Sharif, the championship’s deputy vice president.
Cooking competitions have gained in popularity around the world recently. The hospitality championship will be the first to take place in the UAE.